Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Nazz - Fungo Bat

The Nazz released their second album "Nazz Nazz", in April 1969, after travelling to England to record the album but not managing to due to the lack of work permits. Instead recording it in LA with James Lowe (former singer of The Electric Prunes) as engineer, originally to release a double album named Fungo Bat, compromising both their Who-like rock n' roll and their newest Laura Nyro-type ballads (whom Todd Rundgren was dating at the time). But the record company and the other three members of the band opposed to that idea, and with reason: why let a new band, that only released one album and has no considerable hit single release a sprawling and expensive double album? So it was decided, against Todd's wishes, that they'd separate the best songs in one album and release in that way, so, "Nazz Nazz" was born. But the release of a single album had a price, and that was Todd staying in the band. Fed up with the whole situation, he quit the band, releasing his first solo LP "Runt" and starting a successful career both as a musician and a producer. But SGC Records, his label at the moment, in a attempt to release some material in the wake of Todd's success, gathered around the rest of the songs not released in "Nazz Nazz", and put their keyboardist, Stewkey Antoni, to re-record Todd's vocals. It was then released as Nazz III (how creative!), and due to the fact that they were leftovers, and badly sequenced, made it not a very great album, nott at this great band's standards.
Both Nazz Nazz and Nazz III are lost opportunities, with the former being better than the latter, but still we wonder what if Fungo Bat had been released, and I think that the both together, resequenced would be the best possible way to hear this material, and is the way Rundgren intended it, anyway! It being released as so would also keep the group from breaking up so soon, releasing only three albums, keeping Todd around for some more time around, maybe being able to transform their Philly-area success in a bigger one in the whole country. So, what do we know would feature in the album? Firstly, the whole of Nazz Nazz, because they are from the original sessions, no later overdubs, and were considered the "best tunes", as well as the majority of Nazz III, but with Todd's vocals instead of Stewkey's. Some outtakes, namely "Sing A Song", "Love Everywhere", "Sydney's Lunchbox" and "Oxymoron", I deem either too embryonic or not good enough for the album, keeping just the original 24 songs, resequenced. I tried to keep most sides with equal 23 minute sides, and used the released sequence as a basis at times (such as beginning with "Forget All About It" and ending with "A Beautiful Song"), but apart from that, it mostly changed. And it goes like this:

Side A
  1. Forget All About It
  2. There's Only One Winner
  3. Magic Me
  4. Gonna Cry Today
  5. Meridian Leeward
  6. Under the Ice
Side B
  1. Some People
  2. Rain Rider
  3. Resolution
  4. Old Time Lovemaking
  5. Featherbedding Lover
  6. Take the Hand
  7. How Can You Call That Beautiful?
Side C
  1. Loosen Up
  2. Kicks
  3. It's Not That Easy
  4. Plenty of Lovin'
  5. Letters Don't Count
  6. Kiddie Boy
  7. Christopher Columbus
Side D
  1. Hang on Paul
  2. You Are My Windon
  3. Not Wrong Long
  4. A Beautiful Song

The album starts the same way Nazz Nazz does, with the great power-pop of "Forget All About It", followed by the pop ballad "There's Only One Winner". The rock n' roller "Magic Me" is followed by yet another ballad, "Gonna Cry Today", which is followed by the hilarious "Meridian Leeward, about a pig that became a man. "Under The Ice" finishes side A in a hard rocking fashion, starting with the airplane sounds of the latest tune's ending. Side B begins with "Some People", a nice tune, followed by the great "Rain Rider", and the gentle "Resolution", before leading way to Music Hall with "Old Time Lovemaking", returning to rock n' roll with "Featherbedding Lover". The short "Take the Hand", now with Todd on vocals, and "How Can You Call That Beautiful?" end disc no.1. The second disc in our double album begins with "Loosen Up", a short, but interesting instrumental intro, followed by "Kicks", the only cover in the album, and It's Not That Easy, with Todd's vocals once more, followed by Carson Van Osten's "Plenty of Lovin" and the sax-driven "Kiddie Boy", only to end with another Van Osten tune, "Christopher Columbus". The last side of the LP starts with the Yardbirds-sounding "Hang on Paul", followed by one of Todd's best tunes, "You Are My Window", a great ballad only released in Nazz III. The last couple of tunes are the organ-driven "Not Wrong Long", and Todd's magnum opus, the magnificent "A Beautiful Song". Maybe the greatest Nazz song ever, it is a more that fitting album closer to a schizophrenic ballad/rocker album, featuring a little of both.
Compared to the nice "Nazz Nazz" and the not-so-great "Nazz III", it is the better version, and what was intended by the group's driving force, after all. It is, as I mentioned, a kind of Schizophrenic album, always alternating ballads and heavy songs, adding some variety that the two releases were lacking, and that variety is a part of what makes it great. It is impressing how much it can be changed just by exchanging some versions of tracks and a simple re-sequence. I really hope one day Rundgren decides to re-release the Nazz discography and re-create the Fungo Bat album his own way, but right now, this is as close as we can get. As I said, all album sides clock at about 23 minutes, making the whole venture 92 minutes long, or each album with 46 minutes, the standard-practice on most double albums. It would be released around the same time as Nazz Nazz was released, and have "Sydney's Lunchbox" as a non-album b-side, possibly to a "Forget All About It" single. It would be, as their first album and Nazz Nazz were, well recieved by critics, and push the band to another level, not anymore being a Who-Yardbirds power-pop group only, showing off other more interesting sides of their musicallity. Any thoughts? Criticism, requests, anything at all is welcome. Be sure to make any change you want to the tracklist, and see you next post!

Link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2rpfzbfw0gqvnow/AACdh0f3m99X69U0uIQNqqYCa?dl=0

Sources:
- Nazz Nazz
- Nazz III
- Nazz Nazz/Nazz III: The Fungo Bat Sessions

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